COLOMBO: The phenomenon of rising crime in Jaffna after the end of the war is worrying experts. A place known for its law-abiding citizens is today a happy hunting ground of criminals and law-breakers.
Sebastian Nehru, a Jaffna resident who had worked in the UK police said, “The crime rate is very high. Twenty to 30 bicycles are stolen every day in Jaffna town alone. Seventy per cent of the motorbikes here have no licence. The police, mostly non-Tamil, turn a blind eye, and the courts give bail because there aren’t enough prisons.” The high rate of unemployment is one cause, says Dr Muthukrishna Sarvananthan of the Point Pedro Institute of Development.
“The unemployment rate in Sri Lanka as a whole is 18 per cent, while in the Tamil-dominated North Province it is 31.2 per cent. There has been a 76 per cent increase in financial outlays on developmental projects in the Northern Province, but these investments have increased employment by 5 per cent only,” Sarvananthan noted.
Unemployment is partly due to youth not taking up blue collar work, said A R Jeyamanon, of the Board of Investment in Jaffna.
“Money sent by relatives abroad has spoilt the youth here. They only want white collar jobs. The result is, industries are not coming up here,” Jeyamanon said.
Thiyagarajah Nirosh, a social activist, attributed the malaise to lack of role models or ideals in the post-war scenario. “During the war, the liberation movement offered ideals and goals. After the war, there is a vacuum filled by unproductive or criminal activity. Creation of opportunities for higher education will keep the youth engaged,” he said.
Dr Daya Somasundaram, Jaffna University psychiatrist, said government and civil society should create opportunities for the youth and build up leaders, as these can motivate others.